Why Is the Biden Administration Whitewashing Azerbaijan’s Crimes?

Why Is the Biden Administration Whitewashing Azerbaijan’s Crimes?


The Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict Comes to Michigan

“In September 2023, the Azerbaijani military stormed the Armenian-majority territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, driving out almost the entire population, an act that many outside observers have called ethnic cleansing or even genocide. It was the ugly coda to a long, brutal conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
During the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh had attempted to declare their independence from Azerbaijan, leading to a war that involved atrocities and mass displacement on both sides. (The territory is also called Artsakh in Armenian.) The conflict froze in the mid-1990s and restarted with an Azerbaijani offensive in September 2020.

“If they do not leave our lands of their own free will, we will chase them away like dogs and we are doing that,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in an October 2020 speech. Aliyev also stated that he would welcome Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians as fellow citizens, a claim that Armenians were inclined to disbelieve after Azerbaijani troops beheaded two elderly Armenian men on camera.

Azerbaijan’s wars have been funded, in part, by the American taxpayer. Congress initially tried to stay out of the conflict, banning military aid to Azerbaijan in 1992. A decade later, the U.S. government reversed course, hoping to gain a new strategic ally, because Azerbaijan is located between Iran and Russia and along key air routes to Afghanistan.”

“U.S. military aid, which mostly focuses on border security, is not a make-or-break issue for the Azerbaijani army. Between 2010 and 2020, the majority of Azerbaijan’s weapons came from Russia, with smaller contributions from Israel, Belarus, and Turkey. Russia also supplied nearly all of Armenia’s weapons in the same period.

In addition to selling weapons to both sides, Russia has had peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh since November 2020. Those troops have largely not acted to protect the local population.

However small U.S. aid was in the grand scheme of things, Hamparian believes that the very existence of that aid was “morally emboldening” to Azerbaijani leaders, who thought they had an American green light.”


How Armenia and Azerbaijan’s conflict could still destabilize the region

“A decades-long conflict in the Caucasus flared up last week — only to seemingly finally be decided.
Azerbaijan on September 19 launched an “anti-terror” strike aimed at Nagorno-Karabakh, the semi-autonomous, majority-Armenian region within its internationally recognized borders. One day later, the breakaway government agreed to disarm and dissolve its military. It was the second time in three years that Azerbaijan’s government made decisive gains in a conflict with Nagorno-Karabakh.

Now, many of those ethnic Armenians are fleeing the territory — 50,000, according to authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, although some estimates are as high as 70,500. The breakaway region’s leaders told Reuters that as many as 120,000 people — essentially the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh — would leave, out of fear of ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan’s government after the region’s de facto government capitulated to Azerbaijan last week.

A member of Nagorno-Karabakh’s former government, Ruben Vardanyan, has also been taken into custody by Azerbaijani border guards while trying to flee to Armenia, Al Jazeera reported Thursday. Armenian outlets have reported that David Babayan, an adviser to the region’s former president, has also turned himself in to authorities.

While tensions obviously remain high, and much of what’s happening on the ground is unclear, it does appear the “anti-terror” strike will dissolve the territory altogether. It’s a result that could echo far beyond Azerbaijan’s borders, as it has escalated an already difficult humanitarian crisis and is roiling Armenian politics.”


Why Biden’s statement recognizing the Armenian genocide is a big deal

“President Joe Biden became the first US president to formally refer to atrocities committed against Armenians as a “genocide””

“Previous presidents have refrained from using the word “genocide” in connection with the mass atrocities committed against the Armenian people in the early 20th century, and Turkey categorically denies that a genocide took place. So Biden’s declaration marks a major break from precedent, and could signal an increase in tensions with Turkey, a longtime US and NATO ally.”

“Previous presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, made similar campaign promises to recognize the Armenian genocide, but never followed through while in office, and Bush later called on Congress to reject such a designation. In 1981, Ronald Reagan made a passing reference to “the genocide of the Armenians” during a speech commemorating victims of the Holocaust.”

“other factors have already chilled the US-Turkey relationship. In December of last year, for example, shortly before Biden took office, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey for purchasing Russian military hardware. In 2019, the US also removed Turkey from its joint F-35 stealth fighter program over the same purchase.”


“For Turkey, the outcome was also the latest successful example of its assertive and game-changing use of military hard power, which has so far redrawn geopolitical realities from Libya and Syria to the southern Caucasus.

The moves take advantage of a vacuum left by now-absent U.S. and European actors, analysts say, in order to realize Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ambitions of regional preeminence – and to enhance his popularity at home.

The result is that Mr. Erdoğan is the latest exemplar of the effectiveness of gunboat diplomacy, even as traditional military players withdraw from the field. If there is one important caveat, though, it is that Turkey’s ambitions have also brought it increasingly into competition with another power, Russia.”

” Few think Azeri troops could have broken the years-long stalemate with Armenia without Turkey’s ironclad support and weaponry. Ankara’s arms sales to Azerbaijan increased six-fold this year, rising to $77 million in September alone – making Azerbaijan the biggest client for Turkish weapons – Reuters reports. Turkey also reportedly deployed Turkish-trained mercenary fighters from Syria.”

““There are inherent limits to how far this can go, and the limit is really the Turkish economy, because it is very interdependent with the Western economy,” says Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat and head of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM).

Turkey’s assertiveness abroad has been aided by two concurrent changes in the global order, he says: A United States that is “much more disinterested in this part of the world,” coupled with the “continuing ineffectiveness of the EU as a foreign policy actor.”

“This combination has opened up space for mid-power countries like Turkey to exert themselves more assertively in the regional theater,” says Mr. Ülgen. “The domestic dimension is that the [ruling] AK Party has espoused a narrative of a strong Turkey abroad, and hard power tactics tend to nurture this narrative.””

The surprising Armenia-Azerbaijan peace deal over Nagorno-Karabakh, explained

“That leaves ethnic Armenians in control of the capital Stepanakert and areas mostly to the north, but experts say none of what the Armenians will keep is strategically significant. In effect, Armenia will maintain nominal political control over the capital and its rump of the region (the yellow part in the maps above), but that’s about it. The power Armenia has had in the territory for decades is basically gone.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan won the war, so it gained the most.

As of December 1, it will control the three withdrawn-from areas of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding seven territories, while also remaining in Shusha (or Shushi). That means Azerbaijan will control the most important areas in Nagorno-Karabakh (the green area in maps above) with its military forces.”

“the deal means Azerbaijan is the clear victor in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; Armenia is left reeling and in political turmoil; and Russia and Turkey both enhanced their presence and influence in the region. It’s a dramatic shift from what the situation looked like six weeks ago.

The question now is if the deal will hold. Three previous ceasefire attempts failed in this latest conflict, and political opposition to the deal in Armenia may force the current prime minister — or someone else who usurps his power — to withdraw from the pact.”

Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to end fight in Nagorno-Karabakh

“Armenia and Azerbaijan announced an agreement early Tuesday to halt fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan under a pact signed with Russia that calls for deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and territorial concessions.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a 1994 truce ended a separatist war in which an estimated 30,000 people died. Sporadic clashes occurred since then, and full-scale fighting began on Sept. 27.”

“The agreement calls for Armenian forces to turn over control of some areas it held outside the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the eastern district of Agdam.”

“Armenians will also turn over the Lachin region, which holds the main road leading from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. The agreement calls for the road, the so-called Lachin Corridor, to remain open and be protected by Russian peacekeepers.

In all, 1,960 Russian peacekeepers are to be deployed in the region under a five-year mandate.

The agreement also calls for transport links to be established through Armenia linking Azerbaijan and its western exclave of Nakhcivan, which is surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey.”

“The seizure of Shushi, which Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed Sunday and was confirmed by Nagorno-Karabakh’s presidential spokesman Monday, gave Azerbaijan a significant strategic advantage. The city is positioned on heights overlooking the regional capital of Stepanakert, 10 kilometers (six miles) to the north.”

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, explained

“One of the world’s longest-standing frozen conflicts has thawed into a hot war, leading to over 350 deaths and potentially encouraging world powers to enter the fray — which could make a lethal situation even worse.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have reignited their 32-year struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous territory of 150,000 people about the size of Delaware. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it’s claimed and governed by ethnic Armenians. The two sides haven’t reached a lasting diplomatic resolution to the dispute since a war that killed 30,000 people or more ended in a 1994 ceasefire, leaving open the possibility of renewed deadly fighting.

That worst-case scenario proved a reality last week after the former Soviet territories accused each other of unprovoked attacks. On September 27, Armenia said Azerbaijan’s military bombed civilian settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh, including the regional capital of Stepanakert. In response, Armenia’s defense ministry claimed it downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones. Azerbaijan didn’t take that lightly, with its defense ministry saying it launched a “counteroffensive” with tanks, war planes, artillery missiles, and drones.

Past skirmishes typically lasted no more than a few days, but this one has only continued and intensified. Stepanakert, a city of over 50,000 people, has experienced heavy artillery fire from Azerbaijan since October 2, while Azerbaijan says Armenia has shelled the country’s second-largest city, Ganja, and other missiles elsewhere — each assault putting civilians in grave danger.”

“Turkey, a NATO member, is only making matters worse. It has fully backed Azerbaijan, with observers alleging it has sent at least 1,000 Syrian fighters to help and providing the country’s forces with weapons and training. That’s provocative, experts say, as it not only fans the flames of war, but also threatens the control and calming influence Russia has had over the conflict.”

“so far Russia, which oversees the sputtering diplomatic process over the area along with France and the United States, has called for restraint alongside its counterparts.”

“Most experts I spoke to fear the fighting won’t end until either Armenia deals Azerbaijan a militarily decisive blow, or Azerbaijan reclaims much or all of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding regions. When I mentioned that concern to Zareh Sinanyan, Armenia’s high commissioner for diaspora affairs, he said bluntly: “That is true.””

“The first person to blame for the current conflict is former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. In 1921, he gave Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, only to turn it into an autonomous region two years later. That change would inevitably prove problematic, as Nagorno-Karabakh’s population was over 90 percent Armenian. On top of this, most Armenians are Christian, while Azerbaijan is majority Muslim; thus, Stalin’s decision effectively turned the territory into a Christian-majority enclave in a Muslim-majority nation.”

“The conflict that erupted last week actually began back in mid-July. During days of border fighting, Armenia killed seven Azerbaijani service members, including a top, popular Army general. “Armenia’s political and military leadership will bear the entire responsibility for the provocation,” Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president, vowed at the time.

Later that month, Turkey joined Azerbaijan for two weeks of military drills featuring armored vehicles, artillery, and mortars. It was billed as an annual exercise, but the message was clear: Azerbaijan was preparing for a real fight and Turkey had its back. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made that point explicitly last Friday.”

“experts note Azerbaijan has been careful not to attack civilian areas in Armenia proper. Doing so might trigger a defense treaty Russia has with Armenia requiring Moscow to come to Yerevan’s defense militarily.”